The problem with New York City and other similar older cities is that they are just not set up to deal with so much rain. Having paved most of the city, there is little ground left to soak storm waters, so much so that the sewers are overloaded, resulting in dumping of a water and sewage mixture into water bodies.
In the case of New York, storm water is the largest contributor to pollution, with about 30 billion gallons of storm water wreaking havoc each year.
Conventionally, storm water in these big cities is dealt with as if it were waste, that is, dumped in the sewers. However, a new system which is proving quite popular helps put this “waste” water to good use, with the construction of green infrastructure.
Green infrastructure makes use of street plantings, porous pavements and green roofs in the city to absorb rainwater instead of being channeled straight into the sewers. The system thus puts the rainwater to its natural good use, for nourishing plants and trees and making the environment cooler and greener while also keeping the air clean.
An example of New York’s pilot projects includes a street planting near a playground in Brooklyn which expands the planted area of a streetside tree using plants from the vicinity and special absorbent soil so that the system absorbs about 1,000 gallons of storm water which would otherwise have been wasted. Also incorporated into the system are additional underground storage compartments which hold on to the water and discharge it slowly to nourish the trees.
It is estimated that about 1.5 billion gallons of storm water can be put to good use using green infrastructure, a move which could cost about $2.4 billion less than using regular solutions – “gray” infrastructure – like big storage tanks and pipes.
James F. Gennaro, a New York councilman lent his support to the project by praising its innovation and cost-effectiveness in view of the fact that other social services were competing for the taxpayer’s money. Other business leaders have similarly voiced their support.
With more and more cities coming on board to utilize the system, this shows that green infrastructure, currently not the traditional solution to the problem of storm waters in big cities, will soon become a standard way to address the problem.